Reading Clues Closely
Your feedback is important to us!
After viewing our curriculum units, please take a few minutes to help us understand how the units, which were created by public school teachers, may be useful to others.
The Representative of the Ethical
According to W.H. Auden "the job of the detective is to restore the state of grace in which the aesthetic and the ethical are one." The detective must be either the "official representative of the ethical or the exceptional individual who is himself in a state of grace." Knowing this, and taking into consideration Sayers' reference to Aristotle's mention of paralogismos (the art of the false syllogism), we may have special insight into why Dr. Sheppard, narrator of Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, seems, at first, above our suspicion. It is the illusion that the doctor is a trusted member of the community and a confidant of many that makes us overlook the first vital clues to his actual guilt, early in the narrative. Sayers rightly asserts that because he is a Watson-like character, and Watson was an honest man, we assume that Dr. Sheppard must also be honest. But this is not the only reason he escapes our immediate suspicions. It is as a representative of the ethical, the doctor in whom folks may confide, as a curious amateur with genuine curiosity, that the doctor escapes reproach. He also has a rather likable sense of humor, and seems incapable of meanness. Christie banks on this assumption, even though as the story progresses his flaws begin to accrue. Were it not for the confidence we place in him at the outset, there would be no mystery to build on.